The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center – a Top Family Destination in PA!

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The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

@whitakercenter #whitakercenter Facebook

As a kid I was completely obsessed with science centers. They were my favorite place to go. On a class trip, with my parents, any way I could get to a hands-on science center simply made my day. The same excited butterflies recently entered my stomach when I found out The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center – located in Harrisburg, PA was in the path of our family vacation.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

As authentic as a good old hands on science center can get – my kids (and let’s be honest, I) had THE best time. OK, my husband too… and the baby. So we were five for five! We started our day on the third floor playing with light, sound, air, and everyone’s favorite – the giant bubble machine.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

We then moved on to what would be our home for the next two hours – the “tot” area – KidsPlace. I could not get my kids – ages seven and three – out of this amazing area filled with everything a kid could want to exercise their imagination.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

Even the baby got in to it!

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

Between the play ambulance, theatre (with multiple background curtains and really nice props), water play area, fish tank, big brick & slide structure, they were engaged and playing and content as can be. Guess what we were able to do? Sit down and just watch!

If The Harsco Science Center was nothing but this one area I’m convinced they would still think this was the highlight of our trip.

Also in this area was my favorite accessory to any good family venue – a nursing room! Part a mom’s refuge from her own children and part a quiet, private, cheerful place to breastfeed, it got a full A+ from me!

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

Heading down a flight, brought us to the “Move It” area with car races, die cut machines, and tons of play experiences.

Followed by the circus themed “Carnival of Health”, that was filled with interactive exercise games as far as the eye could see.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

Heading down another flight brought us to “Forces of Nature” where we learned about weather (including a hurricane simulation machine) and gravity. The kids loved lifting thousands of pounds with pulleys and having very fast wind blown in their faces! Since the last few months have been filled with crazy weather occurrences it was nice to have hands on demonstrations so the kids could actually learn about them.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

But here – the pièce de résistance – was the “Backstage Studio”, including a stop animation lab. Upon seeing this, my husband became giddy. It was quite possibly the most excited I’ve ever seen him at a place for kids. Normally the guy telling us it’s time to go – he sat down and created a whole movie for our kids which he proudly played. Forget them; I was excited to watch HIM enjoy it so much!

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

What we thought would be a fun back-up – in case of a rainy day while visiting amusement parks – turned out to be the highlight of our trip. I can’t recommend The Harsco Science Center enough if you will be in the Harrisburg, Lancaster, or Pennsylvania Dutch area. Rain or shine, this place will be a hit.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

As if their permanent exhibits aren’t cool enough, they have visiting exhibits as well (while we were there it was dinosaurs!). If you live in the area you can also take advantage of the wonderful programs they offer like Little Learners and a Parent-Child STEM Adventure program for kids 3-5. They also have Girl Scout programs and Girls in STEM programs.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

With the holidays coming, definitely check out the Holiday Celebrations including the seasonal Whitaker Wonderland – a sock skate rink, “snowball” pit, and Cranky Cars – from November 17, 2017 – January 28, 2018.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

Venturing past the little ones – The Whitaker Center offers movies on the giant screen (Central PA’s biggest if you’re keeping track!) and live performances (including comedians and musicians) at the Sunoco Performance Theater.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

We really did have the best time. Plus the kids got to learn a little science (ha ha- tricked them!). I can’t recommend this place enough. A great stop for Fall, Winter, or a place to add to your itinerary for next summer.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

***GIVEAWAY***

I’m not the only one who wants you to experience this amazing place, the kind people at The Whitaker Center want you to come as well! They’ve generously offered to give away to one lucky reader of The Mint Chip Mama a Family Four Pack of tickets!

To win, please comment below – what your kids would be the most excited to see (or learn about) at The Whitaker Center!

Winner will be picked Wednesday, November 1st, 2017, 5pm EST.

Please also take a moment to follow my blog & like my Facebook page where I share a little something special every day!

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Cherry Crest Farm – A Great Family Destination!

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The Mint Chip Mama - Cherry Crest Farms

We were so lucky to visit Cherry Crest Farm on our last trip to Lancaster, PA. We saw the farm last year as we passed by in the Strasburg Railroad, but it wasn’t until a friend highly recommended it that we made it a “must see” this time around. I get why, this place was fantastic!

To be honest, we loved it even more than expected. From the huge and legit corn maze (read: we had to sit through a corn maze orientation), to the tons of “old school” games and rides and slides, to the local food, to the pig races – we had to pull the kids out of there.

We began our day immediately heading to the Pedal Cart Track where my daughter, who is notorious for wanting to drive anything anyone will let her – got her fill.

The Mint Chip Mama - Cherry Crest Farms

Next, we headed to The Amazing Maze to see what the hubbub was about. As Corn Maze first-timers, we were really impressed and opted for the beginner trail with our three kids – ages 7, 3 and 1. Besides seeing real ears of corn growing in the real corn husks, there were little hidden surprises and fun “corny” signs everywhere! My kids loved finding these Ninja Warrior places, or fun maze puzzle piece stations.

Completely worth mentioning here is the love Cherry Crest Farm puts into this maze. This year’s theme was Charlotte’s Web and from an aerial view that’s just what you got. Plus with color coded ropes in the maze you could tell which part of the design you were in the whole time. Their 22 years of a-maze-ing designs are proudly displayed at the entrance.

Next, we headed to “The Courtyard” Area. Here my kids spent a TON of time playing with the Rubber Duck Race and going through the Straw Bale Maze. When my daughter told me she wanted to go on their “Website” I took a moment to say we’re not looking on phones while here. Then I saw her pointing and laughed. You have to say, Cherry Crest Farm has a good sense of humor!

The Mint Chip Mama - Cherry Crest Farms

But the piece d’resistance of this area was definitely the Lil Wagon Express. We went on it many, many, many times. But it is not just a wagon ride, it is a scavenger hunt to find hidden animals along the way. My son loved finding them. Every. Single. Time. (Hint, they were made of wood and didn’t move).

The Mint Chip Mama - Cherry Crest Farms

For the moms in the crowd I have to take a moment to compliment Cherry Crest Farm for not only having a lovely Baby Changing Area and Nursing Suite, but a bathroom stocked with what’s needed when it’s needed. You know what I mean. No quarters necessary (thank you!).

Enroute to the expansive area up the hill called “The Barnyard”, we stopped to take a picture on the Bucking Bronco. Not sure they made it the full 8 seconds, but Luke Perry would be proud.

This area was amazing! We could have spent an entire day just here. My kids high-tailed it to the Barnyard Jump for some intense jumping and then moved on to the Hay Chute Slide & Straw Bale Racer. The kids were able to walk up the hill themselves with their burlap sacks and then come shooting down. This was done a dozen times. I was ok with that because I didn’t have to walk up the hill even once (read: parenting win).

The Mint Chip Mama - Cherry Crest Farms

Next, my daughter tried the Giant Slinger. Now this is mean, but my favorite part was the power of the sling shot’s backfire shooting her onto her tush in a very surprising situation. She was not as amused as I was…

As big builder fans, our next stop was the Lil Cabin Builders area. Here the kids made life-size cabins out of huge Lincoln Logs. Next, they tried out their newly chiseled muscles on the Post Pounders and all the fun games out and about in the area.

The Mint Chip Mama - Cherry Crest Farms

Finally, we caught a pig race and wanted desperately to make it over to the new Battle Zone but just didn’t have enough time. But this is a good problem to have, it means we have to go back!

The Mint Chip Mama - Cherry Crest Farms

With three distinct seasons at Cherry Crest Farm– Spring, Summer, and Fall we can easily return and get to do even more. They’re open until November 4th, 2017 this season and honestly, I’m dying to go back for the Flashlight Maze and Pumpkin Festival. Plus – spoiler alert – the Fall has campfires and s’mores!

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They have some pretty unique events too throughout the year, including a Facebook Fan Day – where admission is free if you liked their page. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before!The Mint Chip Mama - Cherry Crest Farms

In my opinion, with the weather now cooler, and the summer traffic gone, Fall seems like the best time to visit Cherry Crest Farm. But then again, anytime would be a good time to go. Oh, Cherry Crest Farm – you had me at fresh squeezed lemonade and fudge.

The Mint Chip Mama - Cherry Crest Farms

***GIVEAWAY***

The lovely people at Cherry Crest Farm want you to visit too! They are offering one lucky reader of The Mint Chip Mama a family four pack of tickets!

To win, please comment below with the activity your kids are the most excited to try at Cherry Crest Farm and why!

Winner chosen Wednesday, September 27th, 2017 at 5pm EST.

Engine, Engine, Number 9, on the Historical PA Transit Line…

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The Strasburg Railroad

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@StrasburgRR Facebook

If you’re choo-choo-choosing activities perfect for your locomotive lovin’ family this season, check out the 185 year old steam engine extravaganza that is The Strasburg Railroad in Strasburg, PA.

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If you have a train happy kid they will be beyond thrilled to make a visit. Besides the old time steam engines that have been operating for close to two centuries, there are all kind of fun activities to do, keeping your kids outside and busy for hours!

Our adventure began taking a ride on the train overlooking the beautiful Lancaster farmland. As we chugged ahead in our open air train car we were able to take advantage of the breeze while still being covered from the sun. Inside Outside perfection.

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Après-train, we spent several hours meandering around the station enjoying the “fun extras” including mini stream trains and pump cars. But hands down my kid’s favorite attraction was the cranky cars. These hand-propelled cars (perfectly size for both my seven year old and three year old) date back to the 1930s, and allow little ones to crank their way around a train track. Thank goodness the line was short, as I’d estimate they went on roughly 400 times – laughing hysterically each time. But before I mock, I should say I’m pretty sure I have the same exact picture of me at this age, doing the same exact thing, in the same exact location!

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If your kid’s jam is Thomas then a visit is a must during one of these three 2017 dates – June 17-25, September 16-24, and November 17-19. With photo ops galore and some extra activities available, all your kid’s dreams can come true with their #1 light blue friend.

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If the Sodor obsession has sailed, check out The Strasburg Railroad’s other great upcoming events including The Great Train Robbery.

Not sure yet when you can locomo-tivate to go? (sorry) You can buy tickets at anytime online and view their Train Schedule and Operating Schedule making it nice and easy.

If your visit spans lunchtime, check out their dining car or the beautiful Picnic Groves. I’ve always wanted to eat in the dining car of a train… sounds so romantic. Someone watch my kids.

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If you like to rock it Andrew Jackson style, this family attraction is for you. For the history buffs out there, it’s cool to learn how the The Strasburg Railroad – the oldest continuously operating railroad in the western hemisphere – got to be such a giant and how it was integral to the area’s success. The Strasburg Railroad is a great place to visit on your Lancaster adventure.

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There are so many wonderful destinations in the Amish Country. The hardest part of planning a vacation there is finding enough time to do them all. Happy travels!

Tis the Season for Turkey! Turkey Hill Experience, That Is!

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img_0964As Thanksgiving approaches and everyone starts googling turkey recipes I wanted to make sure mine was included. It’s an easy recipe – open lid, get spoon, scoop, and eat.  Because people – without a doubt, my favorite type of turkey is Turkey Hill ice cream.

Do you agree?

If so I highly, highly recommend visiting the Turkey Hill Experience + Lab on your next visit to Lancaster, PA. A place where it’s always time to “talk turkey” (sorry).

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My family and I recently visited the fun, interactive (and delicious) Turkey Hill Experience and I must say – I am so glad we did. It was one of the clear highlights of our trip because – you know – ice cream! Not only was there plentiful samples, but there was fun stuff for the kids to play with and on, great family picture opportunities (you know I loves me a good stick-your-face-in-it thing), and my favorite – an opportunity to create my own flavor in their scientific, white lab coat wearing Taste Lab.

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With three kids – ages six, three, and an infant, our one and only family vacation needed stroller friendly stops that could accommodate for multiple audiences. The Turkey Hill Experience with its nine interactive exhibit areas including the story of the Turkey Hill Dairy and how the company’s top-selling ice cream and iced tea flavors are selected and created kept my kids interested for hours.

While my daughter could read and learn, my son could milk a mechanical cow, go in ball pits, swirl down slides, and sit in a milk truck. The baby – well – he was just excited to sample the flavors later on from his own personal dairy cow.  Moo.

Besides the above, this colorful and eye pleasing space offered a digital “create your own ice cream flavor” which walked you through several exhibits allowing you to create your own ice cream package and even film a commercial!

But my favorite activity of all was the Taste Lab. For a few dollars more you could go behind locked doors into the dream-come-true land of create your own ice cream flavor using all kinds of tastes and toppings (or as they say – flavoring, inclusions, and variegates). Well worth it, you not only get to play scientist but you learn more fun facts about the Dairy and brand and get to tour the facility eating your creation.

More than just a delicious Dairy, as a proud tree hugger, you can imagine my excitement when I learned about Turkey Hill’s sustainability and environmental impact-reduction projects including the adaptive reuse and rehabilitation of the building that houses the Turkey Hill Experience. As strong advocates for preserving the history, culture, and open spaces of Lancaster County, they decided to convert the 25 year old vacant Ashley & Bailey Silk Mill into their new ice cream oasis instead of new construction. Along the same lines, once inside you can find many creative little ways they used recycled material.

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Have only a short time to visit but think it sounds fun!? Stop by and check out the fully stocked tongue in cheek gift shop or one of the few exhibits open to the public at no charge. I promise the next time, you’ll stay to play.

Looking for a fun holiday activity? Check out the Turkey Hill Experience Ice Cream with Santa offered from 6pm – 8pm on Saturday December 10th and 17th, 2016. A perfect time to visit and enjoy the beautifully decorated space – including several themed Christmas trees. Kids under twelve can create a holiday card that will be mailed to their special someone, listen to Santa read Christmas stories, make a Christmas craft, and enjoy a special Christmas ice cream treat and one of Mrs. Claus’ freshly baked cookies. Turkey Hill drinks will be provided during the event.

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Designed by the same firm as The Hershey Story and the Connecticut Science Center, the Turkey Hill Experience, located at 301 Linden St., Columbia, PA 17512, directly off Route 30 at the Columbia exit, opened on June 4, 2011. For hours of operation please visit their schedule. I also HIGHLY recommended ordering tickets (in advance) online as all tours were sold out by the time we arrived.

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What’s that saying?

Save a turkey, eat some ice cream!?

Happy Thanksgiving!

***Giveaway***

The Turkey Hill Experience would like to give away a family 4 pack of tickets to one lucky Mint Chip Mama reader!

To enter, please comment below with your favorite Turkey Hill ice cream flavor!

Winner will be chosen on Turkey Day, (November 24th, 2016) of course! 

Dutch Wonderland – A Fantastic Family Destination!

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Hear Ye Hear Ye.

If you’re looking for a fun weekend getaway, look no further than Dutch Wonderland.

While the water rides are hibernating for the season, the dry rides & shows are plentiful and festivals are non-stop!

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Few things are a young family’s rite of passage like a road trip to an amusement park. So as a new family of five we decided to give it a go. We strategically planned our visit to Lancaster, PA in early September before our school started – but while most others were already in session. Off peak, off peak, off peak.

I should note I have been DYING to go to Dutch Wonderland for (give or take) thirty five years. As a child my parents and I frequented Amish country but as my Dad says “It was raining every time we tried to go”.

Uh..huh…

While I won’t say I specifically remember sun…. I’ll just say I never got to go – but I passed those castle gates many a time with my hand outstretched towards them and a tear in my eye.

Alas…

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I vowed that one day, one day (!) my kids would get to walk through those castle gates. That day, people, was September 1st, 2016.

With three kids – six and a half, almost three, and three months we thought this was the perfect time to visit. I have to say – we were right!

The park is large in attractions but not overwhelming. While you could go on all the rides in one day the best offer around is to take advantage of the evening preview the night before. For us – with the earlier closing hour of 6pm – this was perfect. We arrived at 3pm and knocked out all of the “bigger” rides we knew would have lines the next day. I loved the preview not only for the efficient (and complimentary) aspect of it but also so I could plan our full day there with some knowledge of the park layout from my own eyes vs. the online map.

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My daughter loved the “bigger” rides but equally loved the smaller rides she could go on with her little brother. The rides were a bit edgier than our local amusement park so she was super excited. My son loved driving the cars and the train. I liked the “sitting and recharging” rides – read: train, monorail, and boat ride. As a parent – shade plus sitting is always a big, big win. The baby was excited for the new “Nursing Station”. But truthfully, I found the whole park nursing friendly with benches located all around.

While the summer months (Memorial Day – Labor Day) are a great time to visit Dutch Wonderland to take advantage of Duke’s Lagoon, the Fall and Winter months are a killer time to go as well. Rides in jeans and a t-shirt vs. tank tops and sweat? Sign me up.

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The 2016 season is still going strong. In the Fall there is Happy Hauntings (Saturdays and Sundays through October 30th) featuring themed rides, special entertainment, tasty treats, and the Trick-or-Treat Trail (a safe, interactive trick-or-treating experience).

If you’re looking for a party – check out the Spook-tacular Halloween Bash (Saturday and Sunday October 29th and 30th) featuring music, dancing and more.

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In the winter – on select dates from November 19th to December 30th you can check out the Dutch Winter Wonderland with rides, entertainment, and the Royal Light Show – a spectacular display of thousands of twinkling lights dancing to your favorite holiday tunes!

Want to do good and receive a complimentary ticket to Dutch Winter Wonderland!? Well head there on November 19th, 2016 between 3:00pm and 9:00pm (the grand opening evening of Dutch Winter Wonderland) with a new, unwrapped toy. Children under the age of 12 will receive one complimentary admission in exchange for each donation to the Toys for Tots Foundation toy drive.

As frequent visitors to our local amusement park – which has the same number of rides packed in to half the acreage – it was absolutely delightful to spend a day at Dutch Wonderland. Not only were there tons of rides and games, special treats like Dole Whip Junction and Funnel cake, a few Dutch education stations (my kids were really into these), shows, and characters – there were also lots of fun “stick your face in the picture” thingies which we all love.

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So at 38 I can say my dream came true. I finally got to enter those big castle gates, walk over the drawbridge – naturally surrounded by a moat – and see the amazing place that is Dutch Wonderland. We had such a great time. The park wasn’t big enough to be stressful, but was big enough to fill our day and leave us wanting to return.  There were plenty of places to eat, rest, play, and enjoy. Dutch Wonderland’s location offered many fun resorts and restaurants within a ten minute drive and there was more to do in the area than we had days to be there. Just a fantastic weekend all around.

Go. Enjoy.

Think of me when you’re eating that Dole Whip!

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